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Ontario should expand online alcohol sales, report suggests

Chamber of commerce suggests the province modernize its alcohol laws as it expands sales to new retail outlets
Shutterstock/Thana Thanadechaku

Ontario's chamber of commerce says the province should expand online alcohol sales, cut taxes for some wine producers and bolster efforts to curb social harms as it liberalizes booze laws.

The chamber makes the recommendations in a report today about the future of beer, wine, cider, and spirits sales--called Refreshing the Sale of Beverage Alcohol in Ontario.

The report says the province has a "patchwork" of policies and regulations it should modernize as it expands alcohol sales to new retail stores.

The chamber says beverage alcohol producers should be permitted to sell their products on e-commerce marketplaces using third parties to process payments, which is currently not permitted.

It also says taxes should be cut on Ontario wines and taxes for craft cider producers should be aligned with those who make craft beer.

The report comes on the same day as a study published that suggests alcohol-related health problems are posing a growing burden on Ontario emergency rooms.

The chamber report also recommends bolstering public education campaigns about the long-term health risks associated with alcohol consumption.

Premier Doug Ford promised during last year's election campaign to make beer and wine available in corner stores, grocery stores and big box stores.

READ: CFIG, RCC react to Doug Ford’s beer plan

Chamber president Rocco Rossi says Ontarians want to see those "substantive reforms" to complex alcohol laws and that can benefit the province if its done right.

"The province can unleash the potential of the beverage alcohol sector, support regional economic development, meet the needs of today's consumer, and generate greater tax revenue to fund the public services on which Ontarians rely," he said in a statement.

The report recommends a further expansion of alcohol sales that would see Ontario spirits and craft beer producers allowed to sell their products at farmers markets.

READ: ‘Beer insiders’ fuelling online criticism of Tory campaign

The chamber says airports should be provided with liquor law exemptions that allow them to sell alcohol 24 hours a day in "post-security areas for both international and domestic passengers."

The province has considered booze liberalization a number of times since the 1960s and that has resulted in a disjointed system of rules and regulations, the chamber says.

"A comprehensive approach to reform is needed to avoid further reinforcing inequities driven by regulatory burden and a patchwork of policy decisions to date," the report says.

Along with promising to expand beer and wine sales, the Progressive Conservative government has loosened rules around alcohol consumption in the province in their spring budget.

Ontario will now allow bars, restaurants, and golf courses to start serving alcohol at 9 a.m., seven days a week, and is promising consultations on a further increase in hours of services in the future.

The government will also let municipalities establish rules about where booze can be consumed in public, such as in some parks. Regulations are also changing to allow tailgating parties near sports events across the province.

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